As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Justin start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outside air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart idea, the truth is there are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can even cause problems.

Here, the experts at Pepper AC & Heat share five reasons why covering your air conditioning equipment doesn’t need to be on your fall to-do list and what you should do instead.

1. Snow won’t Hurt Your AC

Exterior AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These machines are built with durable materials and hardware that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is designed to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your air conditioner in the winter is because doing so can trap moisture—which is definitely not what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because sealing moisture inside the unit produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad aroma, but they can also pose health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than covering the unit, instead ensure proper drainage and keep the area around the unit clear of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Your Covered Air Conditioning Unit Can Host Animals

People aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the wintry months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered AC unit can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can block airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage wildlife, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to clean up and things to repair when winter is over.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason it’s better that you don’t cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is crucial for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and permits the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your air conditioner without knowing that the outside unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the lack of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit has no obstructions and is not covered to maintain the best possible airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Offers More Benefits Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it’s a whole lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your outside AC unit.

There are numerous key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure maximum operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would hinder efficient heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit’s life span, decreases energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.